LAVI$H is just one of those people you want to root for.
Before you even get to his immense musical ability, you’ll find that he’s humble, appreciative, and like many of us, a lifelong music fan. A native of Zambia, LAVI$H moved to Toronto as a child, which was a cultural and climate shock to him, but it was one native of the Canadian city that made that transition a little easier.
LAVI$H recalls that at age 11, Drake’s Take Care monster hit “Headlines” was the first hip-hop song he had ever heard, and it had him falling in love with the culture. The way he describes it, the song, and Drizzy’s overall artistry, not only got him through the tough times, but made doing music himself a very real thing.
Coincidentally, over a decade later, LAVI$H now calls the Toronto rapper’s OVO label his musical home. During a recent interview with BET, he tells the story of how he got the incredible opportunity to learn under Drake and his team, the reverence of it, moving to North America, and how he discovered his sound, which he says he created from scratch.
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BET: You’re from Zambia and Toronto and now live in L.A. But talk about coming from Zambia and then relocating to Canada…
LAVI$H: Yeah my parents flew all of us when I was I think seven years old from – first we went to my grandma's house in Congo, and I don't know where [in the country], I was super young. So me, my two older sisters, and my two younger sisters, even though I think one of them was on one plane. Like I'm not too sure… Because I didn't know where I was in Zambia, and all of a sudden she popped up when we were in Canada. We came in the middle of winter. It was weird at first, but you know, I got used to it and my accent faded.
BET: Yeah that cold must have been a shock, particularly coming from Southern Africa…
LAVI$H: You know what's crazy, I couldn't even feel the cold when I got here. I remember it vividly: we got off the plane and straight to the tarmac. We didn't go into the airport, I forget what airport it was but it was straight onto the tarmac. I saw white stuff on the ground and in the sky, but I just didn't feel cold. The cultural differences were just like a shock to me.
BET: Your new single and video “World in My Hands.” How did both the song and video come together for that one?
LAVI$H: That was one of the first times [OVO Chubbs] had flew me to LA to work at one of Drake’s houses. He owns like four houses or whatever. And it was me, Yonathan, Trizz and a few other people that were in the pool house with us. I've always wanted to create a song where it's like a bunch of people on the hook where it's like a bunch of harmonies stacked, so we just started vibing. We just started like playing around with sounds, playing around with different melodies and then “World in My Hands” started being built from those hook melodies that you guys hear now.
We did the video here in Toronto and that was probably the longest shot video I've ever been a part of. It was a pretty long process. I think he started at maybe 10 in the morning until like 6 a.m.
BET: You mention OVO Sounds’ Chubbs. How did you meet him or how did he discover you and kind of start that partnership?
LAVI$H: Me and Trizz were watching this Verzuz battle between Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane and it ends or whatever, but then I started thinking, I'm like, Yo, this music is so timeless and people still love this stuff. Why don't we dive in and make real music, not necessarily that type of music, but music that will stay for a very long time? And then it wasn't a couple – maybe a couple of months later, New Year's clean 2021. Chubbs hits me up and he's like, “Whenever you ready to work, let me know.” And I didn't believe a single thing when I saw the message pop up, because why is this guy that works with this guy that I've looked up to for the longest time hitting me up to work with me? Until I went back and looked at name and the credentials – okay this is actually Chubbs, this is actually happening, this is actually real. I obviously hit him back and then he invited me over to a pool party that someone was having, and that was my first time ever meeting him.
I remember an incident that I had with him in that night was I was super drunk, having the time of my life, and I went to go order pizza at the food truck and I ordered pizza for myself and ordered it for him. But he didn't know I was ordering pizza and didn’t know who I was because he just met me. So I’m standing there, I go out to him. I'm like, Do you want a slice of pizza? He just gives me this look like what on earth are you doing offering me like, what are you doing? And I just look crazy drunk and I'm gonna have pizza in my hand and there was a scene where you know from there you kind of like, started to know my personality. And then that's when he had flown me out to LA to one of Drake’s properties and we just started working there.
BET: Did you find out how he became hip to you?
LAVI$H: Yeah, so I have a friend – a photographer and a business partner named Astral, and also have a friend named Whoa is affiliated with OVO. So without me knowing they were shopping my music around and one of those people was Chubbs [and they] were sending him my old rap stuff, my old r&b – kind of Bryson Tiller-type stuff – and then one day, I guess they sent him the song that I made in my parents basement back in Winnipeg – maybe 2017-2018 called “Somebody.” I could never really sing, but I really knew how to mix my vocals to make it sound like I can sing. So this whole song I'm doing falsetto and so I was editing, editing, editing, and then I guess they got a whole song and years years go by and Woah and Astral are sending the song to Chubs and I think he was on a boat or yacht somewhere with Drake and everybody else, and I think he heard it.
BET: You recently dropped your debut EP, You Made A Big Mistake. It was a very solid debut. Talk about creating that and your process behind it.
LAVI$H: Yeah, so making the EP was super stressed out in the span of maybe two years. We had been hacking at it, going at it for a while because me making the EP was really me discovering my sound. Especially on the song “Big Mistake.” That was the night I told you about. The night of me and Trizz in the studio, talking about let's make real music. The piano playing in the song was sent to us by one of our pianists and producers. And we went upstairs to the studio and I just started doing the same things I would do on any other beats, so the mumbling and trying to find it and then it came to me in my regular r&b voice. And then when it came to the hook I just belted out this big voice you hear on the record, and I've never heard that voice in my life. I've never done that voice in my life. It was kind of like a gift from above. It just happened and it was just like Woah! We took a step back and was like, Yo that is it and I scrapped everything else and started doing this sort of sound.
BET: What’s it been like working at Drake’s studios or OVO-based studios and knowing you’re an arm’s length from one of the artists of this generation?
LAVI$H: Yeah, you know it's not only Drake that was there, it was everybody because when he moves, we all kind of move. Wherever he goes, they go, because that's just how it works. I think it was the first day waking up [at Drake’s house], I’m walking into the kitchen and I see this big dude coming from the pool house and walking in and I’m like, Yo is that Baka? I'm so used to seeing these people on the internet, and it was just so surreal. Sometimes I’m like I’m actually here, this is actually happening. Now that we're all friends and it’s set in it’s a blessing. There's still days where I'm like, This is actually my life, like I'm actually I'm actually doing this.
BET: You’ve opened for Jessie Reyez, DVSN and PARTYNEXTDOOR so far. What have you learned from those experiences?
LAVI$H: There's many things that’s taught me. One is stage fright never goes away, no matter who you are, you’re going to have stage fright. And two, this is the biggest lesson I learned and somebody else taught me or told me it was, okay, I'm a new artist, people don't know who I am. When I come out, they don't know what my music is, they know nothing about me. So I can't go out there, and just because they're not clapping or just because they're not giving me the theatrics or support that they're going to give the next person is because they know them. They're just really trying to take you in when they've never seen you before. They want to know who you are.
BET: Why was Drake's "Headlines" so moving and inspiring to you?
LAVI$H: You know what's crazy? So when I moved to Winnipeg, and I think I'm about 11 or so, “Headlines” was the first hip-hop song I ever heard. Drake was the first hip-hop artist I ever heard ever. And so just imagine the look on my face and how my brain was going crazy seeing this, just listening to the theme, melodies on it, on like a hip-hop, rap-feel, it was just insane. It's not just his music that has inspired me to become an artist that I want to become, I guess who he is as a person and how he and his folks, how they all just carry themselves. It's a family how he embraces his people. He takes care of his people. He's looking out for others. It's just those things are there everything.
BET: How do you stand out among all these new rappers and singers that are currently flooding hip-hop and r&b currently?
LAVI$H: So with me, I listen to absolutely every genre of music. I love every genre of music. I'm a music lover – go to bed with headphones in my ears like it's crazy. I'm insane. I listen to Bollywood music, Nigerian music, German music everyday. I love country, rock-n-roll, I grew up on Billy Talent, I grew up on Disturbed, I grew up on Linkin Park, Maroon 5, all these things. The thing I think that sets me apart and sets my sound apart is that I pick at all these different genres that I listen to and kind of apply it to my music without stealing. So you know when I make music I kind of make it genre-less. When I make it they’re thinking, “This is r&b record, this is a rap record, this is folk.” No. When I go in, I'm gonna make a song and it's not going to conform to any sort of, whatever types of music we have, I'm just going to make it. And it's going to come out of my vocals and the instruments exactly how I hear it. For me personally, some songs on the EP or some songs I’ve made I can't even put it in a genre, because I know what I made. I blended this and this, this and this can't go there and this can't go there either. So it's its own thing. Yeah. I love to blend things, but make it my own. Make it our own.
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